The halfway point of the season has come and gone.
Game forty-one is now far in the rear view mirror. While that is the official halfway point of the season its always seemed like the all-star game was the true half way marker. The all-star game is just one day away and we have officially stepped into the break.
What better time to look at the Capitals and see how they’re doing. We can compare this years teams to last years team to see how much better, or worse they are doing in several categories. It works out pretty well this year. At the all-star break last year the team had played fifty games, so far this year they have played forty-nine games.
After taking a quick look at the stats, and putting record aside, this team is doing pretty darn well. They are well ahead of last years team in most stats. How ahead? Well…
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The record speaks for itself, forty-nine games in they’re 33-11-5, good for 71 points and good enough to call themselves the best team in the NHL. At this time last year the Capitals were 27-17-6, they had 60 points and were 10th in the league and fourth in the eastern conference.
The goals are much better as well. On average the team is scoring more scoring 3.55 goals per game and allowing just 2.90 per game. At the break last season they were scoring 3.36 goals per game and allowing 3.22 goals per game. Defense is still a bit of a question mark for this team but they have brought the goals against average down.
That improved defensive play has also shown in the shot totals. Last year at the halfway point of the season they were averaging 30 shots for a game and 32.3 shots against per game. This year at the halfway point of the season they get 32 shots per game and allow 29.8 shots a game.
This team still shoots very well. They had an excellent shooting percentage last season and while it’s dropped this season it’s still at the top of the league. Last year at the half way point they shot 10.16% which was second best in the NHL. This year it’s gone down to 9.52% but it still ranks as the third best shooting percentage in the league.
Goaltending hasn’t been a big issue for this team very often in recent years. It’s hard to say it’s an issue right now but the teams save percentage ranks in the bottom half and near the bottom third in the entire league. Their current percentage of 91.57% ranks 19th in the NHL. At the halfway point of the season last season it was 91.81%, that ranked 14th.
Special teams has seemingly flipped for the Capitals. The power play has always been good, and it still is this season. They’re currently operating at 20.3%. Very respectable, plenty good to help a long run come playoff time. The penalty kill has been exceptional killing 84.2% of the penalties they’ve taken. Last season the power play was ticking at 21.8% and the penalty kill ranked 25th in the league at 77.3%.
This is one of the things that will have to improve. The Capitals have to stay out of the box. It might be hard to believe but last year at the halfway point of the season they had actually taken nearly the same amount of penalties. This season they have taken 207 penalties for 499 penalty minutes. Last season they took 205 penalties for 470 PIM’s. Unfortunately this problem looks like it’s a little embedded into the team DNA.
One area the team still isn’t very good at but has improved a lot in is faceoffs. Last season they were at 46.2% which was dead last in the league and so far this season they win 49.4% of the draws. Still on the wrong side of fifty percent but they crawled up to 20th in the league.
Like most of these stats the advanced stats also tell us this team is greatly improved. This year at the break their team Corsi% is 51.94%, that’s 8th in the circuit. Last season it was ranked 23rd at 48.25%.
Controlling more of the shot attempts will naturally lead to controlling more of the scoring chances. This year at the halfway point of the season they have a scoring chance for percentage of 51.78% which is 9th best in the NHL, last year it was 14th in the league at exactly 50%.
The Capitals are controlling the middle of the ice much better this season as well. This year they get more high danger attempts than they allow controlling 50.83% of those attempts. That ranks 11th in the league. Last year it was pretty bad. They ranked 28th in the NHL at 45.25%. That’s where the goals are scored, especially in the playoffs. Improving this stat will surely help when the games get important in the spring.
Just for fun, we’ll look at one more thing. Last season at this time Alex Ovechkin led the team with 57 points and also led them in goals with 37. John Carlson led the team in assists at 39. This season it’s the same names but just a little bit of a different order. Ovechkin still leads the team in goals, big shocker there, with 34. But this season it’s Carlson who leads the team in points with 60 and he still leads the team in helpers with 47.
They have improved. It’s really not hard to see. That doesn’t mean they still can’t get better. They still need to improve defensively in my mind. They need to get better or more consistent goaltending, specifically from Braden Holtby. And, like we said before, they have to stay out of the box.
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Most of what this team does is encouraging though. They can score, their power play, while not as deadly as previous years, is still effective. While they can improve defensively it’s not like they’re bad. A lot of defensive stats show they’re a top ten even top five team in the entire league. It’s a deep team where all four lines can contribute and they get big contributions from a likely Norris winning defenseman.
Things look a lot better at the halfway point of the season this year than they did a year ago. It’s been a fun season so far. Only time will tell if the fun will continue.